Exploring the Influence of Dionysos: The Tomb of the Diver, the symposion, and the afterlife in Southern Italy

The 'Tomb of Diver' is a fifth century BC tomb found at the Greek city of Poseidonia in Southern Italy. Despite the fifty years that have elapsed since its discovery, it remains unique: its painted internal walls depict a convivial symposion scene, a common subject on ancient Greek vases but highly unusual as funerary decoration. No other comparable tomb has ever been discovered – what does this extraordinary scene of drinking and festivities tell us about attitudes to death and the afterlife in ancient South Italy, and the occupant of this elaborate grave?

Presented by Dr Gillian Shepherd (La Trobe University) in conjuction with Dionysos: Portrait of a God.


About Dionysos: Portrait of a God

June 2018 to May 2019

Dionysos is a god of many faces, representing the breadth of human experience. To the ancient Greeks he was the god of wine, of life and of death, and an ecstatic god of the wild, associated with untamed animals and the rejection of the normal way of things. In art, and in myth, Dionysos is accompanied by satyrs, half men, half goats, and maenads, wild women from the east. Dionysos could be masked and was the god of theatre, taking on the appearance of both men and women. He could also be unmasked in ritual, revealed in joy or in fury. Dionysos is a god of opposites, between civilization and wildness, city and country, life and death, man and woman, old and young. But Dionysos also a great equaliser, bringing Greek cities together in worship. At the heart of Dionysiac cult were the mysteries, secret knowledge of life, death and rebirth, known only to initiates.

Dionysos: Portrait of a God explores the many faces of Dionysos in the Classical Greek world through artefacts from the Antiquities Museum and Australian partner institutions. It invites visitors to enter the playful, mysterious and sometimes dark world of Dionysos and come away with a new appreciation for this complicated god, who is much more than just the god of wine.

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Curated by Mr James Donaldson, Dr Janette McWilliam, and Ms Rebecca Smith